Attendees grieve during a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — The 34 people who died in a diving boat fire off Southern California are being remembered by those who shared their love of the sea.

Hundreds turned out Friday evening for a vigil at a Santa Barbara park.

The dead were "our friends and our family members. Our common love of diving binds us together for eternity," said Don Barthelmess, a local dive instructor.

Thirty-four scuba tanks lined the stage.

Mourners wept, embraced and placed white carnations in baskets. The flowers and a wreath were destined for an existing waterside memorial to those lost at sea.

The dive boat Conception was gutted by fire and went down in about 65 feet of water before dawn Monday while anchored off Santa Cruz Island.

Those who died were in a bunkroom below deck and probably were trapped as flames blocked a stairway and an escape hatch, authorities have said.

Preliminary findings on the causes of death, announced by Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, raise the possibility the victims inhaled highly toxic smoke and died in their sleep before being scorched by flames that burned their bodies beyond recognition.

"The indicators are from the preliminary examination of the bodies that the victims died prior to being burned," Brown said.

The revelation came as investigators searched for the cause of the deadly blaze and divers looked for the body of the one missing victim. The Coast Guard said safety concerns over gusty winds halted efforts to salvage the boat Friday afternoon.

Gusts of up to 40 mph were expected through the weekend.

The Conception's captain and four other crew members jumped overboard and were the only survivors. They told investigators a harrowing tale of trying to get below decks to help the 33 guests and one crew member but finding themselves driven away by flames, heat and smoke.

"Within minutes, they would've been consumed," Glen Fritzler, co-owner of boat owner Truth Aquatics, Inc., told KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara. "So they did their best. They did re-enter the vessel from the back of the boat after they swam around it. They could not get to firefighting equipment because everything was engulfed."

Twenty-three of the 33 bodies recovered have been positively identified through DNA, and their family members around the world are being notified, the county sheriff said. Relatives have been tracked down as far away as Singapore, Japan and India.

While local, state and federal agencies try to solve the mystery of what doomed the dive boat, the investigation has not turned criminal, although that is a possibility, Brown said.

Under a federal law known as the seaman's manslaughter statute, a captain or crew member can be charged with a crime if their negligence or misconduct results in death.

Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who is a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said it's too early to discuss charges.

"There are lots questions to answer, including what even constitutes negligence. In other words, do you have to have somebody on watch, enough fire extinguishers or ways to, you know, get out — enough exits?" Levenson said. "Certainly, if they find out there was negligence or misconduct this is a possibility, but it's too soon."

Brown said the cause and manner of death were being determined through external exams and not traditional autopsies. Final results will depend on toxicology tests.

Dr. Howard Robin, an expert in forensic pathology, said lack of autopsies could present a challenge during any lawsuits brought by family members because those results are typically used to support damages for pain and suffering.

Truth Aquatics pre-emptively filed a lawsuit Thursday under a pre-Civil War provision of maritime law that could protect it from potentially costly payouts to families of the dead, a move condemned by some observers as disrespectful and callous.

The company said in a statement posted Friday on Instagram that the lawsuit is an "unfortunate side of these tragedies" and pinned the action on insurance companies and other so-called stakeholders.

"This wouldn't be something that we as a family would even consider," Truth Aquatics said. "The timing is on them. Our hearts and minds are on the tragedy and finding answers."

___

Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

Glen Fritzler, left, co-owner of Truth Aquatics and the dive boat Conception, consoles an attendee during a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Attendees grieve during a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Attendees hug during a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2019, file photo, provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, firefighters work to extinguish a dive boat engulfed in flames after a deadly fire broke out aboard the commercial scuba diving vessel off the Southern California Coast. The owners of the dive boat where 34 people perished in a fire off the coast of Southern California filed a legal action in federal court Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, to head off potentially costly lawsuits. Truth Aquatics Inc., which owned the Conception, filed the action in Los Angeles under a pre-Civil War provision of maritime law that allows it to limit its liability. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2019, file photo, provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a dive boat is engulfed in flames after a deadly fire broke out aboard the commercial scuba diving vessel off the Southern California Coast. The owners of the dive boat where 34 people perished in a fire off the coast of Southern California filed a legal action in federal court Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, to head off potentially costly lawsuits. Truth Aquatics Inc., which owned the Conception, filed the action in Los Angeles under a pre-Civil War provision of maritime law that allows it to limit its liability. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP, File)
This photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows the derrick barge Salta Verde engaged in salvage operations over the wreck of the dive boat Conception at Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Southern California Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. The Conception burned and sank Sept. 2, taking the lives of 34 people. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
A row of hearts, each with the name of a victim, adorn a growing memorial to those who died aboard the dive boat Conception, seen early Friday morning, Sept. 6, 2019 at the harbor in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)
This photo from video provided by KEYT-TV shows the owners of Truth Aquatics and the dive boat Conception, Glen and Dana Fritzler, right, and their daughter Ashley, left, during an interview with News Channel Three's Beth Farnsworth Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019 in Santa Barbara, Calif. They say they are beyond devastated by the tragedy that took 34 lives on the Conception. The small, family owned company has been in business for 45 years, is known throughout the world and is well-known in Santa Barbara. (KEYT-TV via AP)
This November 2018 photo provided by Margo Peyton shows, from left, Diana Ademic, Berenice Felipa, Steve Salika and Tia Salika enjoying a dive during their 2018 Thanksgiving vacation trip at a Kids Sea Camp week at Buddy Dive Resort off Bonaire, a Netherlands-administered island in the Leeward Antilles off the coast of Venezuela. All four were aboard the dive boat Conception and all died in the fire that swept the vessel on Sept. 2, 2019 off the coast of Southern California. (Margo Peyton via AP)
CORRECTS TO SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF'S LT. ERIK RANEY, AT PODIUM, ANNOUNCES SPEAKERS AND CLARIFIES THAT BROWN SAYS 18 PEOPLE KILLED IN THE CALIFORNIA DIVE BOAT FIRE HAVE BEEN POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED.  Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Lt. Erik Raney, at podium, with Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, to his right, announces speakers at a news conference at Sheriff's headquarters in Santa Barbara, Calif., Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. Brown says 18 people killed in the California dive boat fire have been positively identified. Other identifications require DNA analysis because of the intensity of the fire early Monday, Sept. 2, aboard the vessel Conception. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)
A growing memorial to those who died aboard the dive boat Conception is seen Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of multiple people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Glen Fritzler, left, co-owner of Truth Aquatics and the dive boat Conception, is seen during a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Glen Fritzler, left, co-owner of Truth Aquatics and the dive boat Conception, consoles attendees during a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Glen Fritzler, left, co-owner of Truth Aquatics and the dive boat Conception, is seen during a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
An attendee kneels in front of scuba tanks that were placed to represent each victim during a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the people who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Several hundred people attend a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Bethany Holt, left, kneels with her son Jimmy, 15, during a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif. for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
An attendee places a flower in a basket during a vigil Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the victims who died aboard the dive boat Conception. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
This undated photo provided by Brilliant shows Carrie McLaughlin, an employee of the education platform Brilliant in San Francisco. McLaughlin, 35, was a senior software engineer who, along with her colleague Kristian Takvam, both died in the dive boat Conception fire on Sept. 2, 2019. The loss of the two friends was heartbreaking for their colleagues in Northern California.
This undated photo provided by Brilliant shows Kristian Takvam, an employee of the education platform Brilliant in San Francisco. Takvam, along with his colleague Carrie McLaughlin, both died in the dive boat Conception fire on Sept. 2, 2019. The loss of the two friends was heartbreaking for their colleagues in Northern California.
This undated photo provided by Maggie Strom shows her husband, Ted Strom. who is one of the 34 people who died in the fire aboard the dive boat Conception on Sept. 2, 2019 Strom, 62, was a staff physician at the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was also an associate professor at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, and taught hematopathology and transfusion medicine to medical students and residents, according to his profile on LinkedIn. (Maggie Strom via AP)
This undated photo provided by Maggie Strom shows her husband, Ted Strom. who is one of the 34 people who died in the fire aboard the dive boat Conception on Sept. 2, 2019 Strom, 62, was a staff physician at the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was also an associate professor at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, and taught hematopathology and transfusion medicine to medical students and residents, according to his profile on LinkedIn. (Maggie Strom via AP)
This photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows the derrick barge Salta Verde engaged in salvage operations over the wreck of the dive boat Conception at Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Southern California Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. The Conception burned and sank Sept. 2, taking the lives of 34 people. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
This June 19, 2019 photo provided by the Soquel Creek Water District shows Vaidehi Williams in Soquel, Calif.   She was one of the 34 people aboard who perished when the dive boat Conception burned off the coast of Southern California on Sept. 2, 2019. (Elyse Destout/Soquel Creek Water District via AP)
The dive boat Vision is seen Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Vision is from the same fleet of boats that include the Conception, owned by Truth Aquatics. A Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the Conception near Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
A growing memorial to those who died aboard the dive boat Conception is seen Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif. The dive boat in the background is the Vision which is from the same fleet of boats that include the Conception, owned by Truth Aquatics. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Members of the FBI walk near the dive boats Vision and Truth, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif. as they investigate the fire aboard the dive boat Conception, which is from the same fleet of boats, owned by Truth Aquatics. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)